Vietnam Comes Home: Pho King
When asked what I missed about my former life in the Big Apple, my usual answer used to be “family, friends and good Asian food.” To make authentic foreign food, you need authentic foreigners, but Mexico, unlike other great world metropoles, is not so culturally diverse for its size. I still miss friends and family, but the frustrating Asian food longing is lessening - it’s getting better here!
In preparation for my first visit to Viet Nam, I made the trek out to Lomas to the consulate to procure the necessary visa. It’s located in a former private house off of Reforma whose withered palms and empty pool recall Norma Desmond’s mansion in Sunset Boulevard, perhaps a year or two after her “close-up.” We were greeted at the door by the consul himself, an older gentleman; the secretary, who I suspect was his wife, sat at a desk near the entry. After the business at hand was completed, my plan had been to ask how many VIetnamese live in Mexico, and if there were any good restaurants. The answer to the first question was “There are TWO of us! Her and me!” I cancelled question number two.
Well, all that has changed. Our crazy patch-work of an urb is now home to growing communities from diverse countries and appropriate eating joints are popping up right and left.
The noble Kiin Thai-Viet Eatery has been offering lovingly prepared dishes from ‘Nam for a while now. But Pho King is our very first all-Viet venue. The fairly large restaurant opened its doors recently in the Zona Rosa and sports a name that invites puns, (“pho” is pronounced like the four-letter-word you weren’t supposed to say in front of grandma) but it's no joke. What we have sampled so far at King is excellent.
A sensibly limited menu is divided into sections entitled ‘ensaladas, sopas, nem rolls and “especial”’ a category that includes mains such as fried chicken and an interesting looking stew that we are waiting to try when the intense heat of spring eases.
From the ensalada section, green papaya salad, unlike its more complex Thai cousin, is simple and sweet, served with a generous handful of peanuts tossed on top. It is lacking spice but refreshing: a dose of nuoc cham, the rice vinegar with chiles, provided on each table along with the requisite sriracha sauce, adds the missing zing.
Nem, rolled, stuffed rice pancakes, are light and herby and their spiky/sweetish peanut dipping sauce is a perfect compliment to the bland noodles and greens therein.
The aforementioned fried chicken will remind hard-core FC freaks of the Taiwanese and Korean versions, i.e. golden nuggets that are satisfyingly crunchy, perfumed with lemongrass and succulent within.
The star of the show, the pho itself, is exemplary. A Vietnamese businessman was photographing his on last visit. I recommend the Pho Bò Tái, of carne salteado, whose beef has been tossed in the wok first to give it extra umami. The broth is rich and aromatic: it is obvious that every bone of the beast has been well utilized in its preparation. The fettuccini-shaped rice noodles retain a bite, sautéed beef bits stay tender. A small or large bowl is good for sharing and waiters will be happy to provide smaller bowls for doling out tasting portions.
Fans of Vietnamese iced coffee, similar to the Thai, that is, strong, sweet and rich with condensed milk, will not be disappointed.
Note that servings are large, prices are kind to those on a budget. A lunch can be had for under $250. So far, credit cards are not accepted so come prepared.
Pho King awesome! (Sorry about that, but I couldn’t help myself)
Calle Florencia 33, Colonia Juarez see map
Tel. 5206 3671
Open Monday - Saturday 12 - 10 p.m. (closed Sunday)